COLUMBUS, Ohio — House Democrats introduced legislation Monday that would force GOP Rep. Larry Householder, currently under indictment in an alleged $61 million bribery scheme, to repay his salary if he’s convicted at trial.
Reps. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, and Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said in a news release the legislation isn’t specifically directed at Householder, but state lawmakers generally who are indicted for a felony involving public corruption.
However, Householder is the only state lawmaker known to be under indictment and still collecting a salary and benefits.
The bill would require any lawmaker to repay both their salary and the cost of medical and retirement benefits from the moment of indictment through the date of conviction.
“We need to demonstrate to the people of Ohio that the vast majority of their legislators are honest and will not tolerate corruption,” Crossman said in a news release.
“The numerous and outrageous scandals involving the highest-ranking Republicans in the General Assembly have eroded the public’s trust in this institution. This legislation represents and important first step in restoring it.”
Current law automatically prohibits convicted felons from holding statewide office but allows those under felony indictment to serve.
Authorities arrested Householder last summer and charged him and several others in a racketeering scheme to pass legislation to bail out coal and nuclear plants. Funds secretly provided by FirstEnergy and controlled by then-Speaker Householder fueled the operation, prosecutors say. With the money, Householder allegedly orchestrated a campaign of dirty tricks and brute political force to pass the legislation.
The House voted to remove Householder as speaker. However, Republicans have rebuffed efforts from Democrats to expel him from the chamber. His successor, House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, has for weeks declined to answer whether House Republicans plan to expel Householder.
Householder has pleaded not guilty, as has lobbyist and alleged co-conspirator Neil Clark, and former state GOP chairman Matt Borges.
Jeff Longstreth, Householder’s political adviser, and FirstEnergy lobbyist Juan Cespedes both pleaded guilty, as did Generation Now, an entity that took funds from FirstEnergy and used them to power the operation.
Neither FirstEnergy nor its executives have been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
“Lawmakers who don’t have the decency to resign after they are indicted on serious criminal charges should be forced to repay the people of Ohio when they are convicted,” Lepore-Hagan said. “Along with being the absolute right thing to do, it may motivate people who don’t deserve the honor of sitting in the people’s House to leave when they should.”